I didn’t know I was a control freak until my ex-boyfriend couldn’t hold it from me any longer. We were on our way to see a movie—a safe 45 minutes before it started of course—when he just lost it. He said he couldn’t take it any longer. Not just my insisting we leave 45 minutes early for a movie, but my badgering, my planning, my cleanliness, my criticism. According to him, my need to control was driving a wedge between us. I know what you expect happened next: I pulled the car over, through a fit, and that was the day he became my ex-boyfriend. But that’s actually far from what happened. I kept driving (we still had to make the movie), and I reflected on everything that he said to me. Maybe I was a little uptight. Maybe I needed to let go a little, learn to ride the waves. So, I gave it a whirl. I stopped planning our dates to a T. I stopped pushing my agenda on him. I went with the flow. Not only did our relationship improve, but I felt so relieved. It turned out that being a control freak was actually pretty exhausting, and I hadn’t even realized I was one.

A control freak is someone who’s obsessed with exercising control. We all come off a little demanding or domineering sometimes, but these individuals (like my former self) take it to the next level. Here are a few signs that you might be a control freak:

  • You push your opinions on others in order to benefit yourself. For example, the mess that was my ex’s room used to drive me crazy. So, I tried to convince him that his sloppiness was hindering his life, when really it was just a pet peeve of mine.
  • You micromanage others. You don’t take no for an answer and want them to be perfect.
  • You openly judge others’ behavior. For example, you sit in silence with your thoughts plastered on your face when you’re unhappy with something. Think Miranda Priestly from The Devil Wears Prada.
  • You call your opinions constructive criticism, but really just want to reap the benefits.
  • You may even change who you are in order to control one’s impression or opinion of you.
  • You dismiss ambiguity and seek out every detail.

Don’t Worry—There’s A Fix

So, you’re a control freak. It’s not the end of the world! I’ve been there, done that, and I’m still living today. Better than ever, in fact. And you can turn the tables too. Here are a few ways to become a better, less-controlling you:

  • Submit to vulnerability. Don’t let your need to control how others view you take over.
  • Be realistic. Nobody’s perfect, including you and those you surround yourself with.
  • Accept that there is a whole world of unknown out there. As desperate as you are to calculate every detail, it’s just not possible. Things can change in an instant.
  • Let others be themselves. Don’t try to push your advice or opinions on others. I shouldn’t have pushed my neat freakiness on my ex, it wasn’t a detrimental quality like I insisted.
  • Try putting the plans into someone else’s hands. In order to learn to just go with the flow sometimes, you have to test the waters. Let someone else make the plans for once.

Or Is This Actually More Serious?

There are perfectionists, there are control freaks, and then there’re those with obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD). According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), this illness is characterized by a preoccupation with organization, perfectionism, and control. Sounds a lot like a control freak, huh? Well, good thing there are specific criteria used to distinguish OCPD. These criteria are as follows:

  • He or she obsessed over details, rules, lists, schedules, and overall organization, to the point where the overall purpose of the activity is lost.
  • The individual’s obsession with perfectionism interferes with his or her ability to accomplish tasks.
  • He or she is overly devoted to work and productivity.
  • The individual is too conscientious and inflexible when it comes to their morals.
  • He or she finds it difficult to throw away old or worthless objects.
  • He or she is unwilling to work others unless they agree to follow his or her exact instructions.
  • The individual is excessively stingy with money.
  • He or she is overly rigid and or stubborn.

So while control freaks and those who suffer from obsessive-compulsive personality disorder may share commonalities, there are clear differences in the two. If you’re a control freak, you can follow the aforementioned tips to being a better friend and a better you. And if you’re realizing you may actually have a more serious obsessive-compulsive personality disorder, then there is effective treatment available for you. Either way, your need to control will not go unmatched!